After posting all about learning styles, I actually came across an article from the Sacramento Bee about schools that are providing a way for students with specific interests and talents can utilize them in a classroom setting. The program that has been developed is very innovative, and also extremely specific:

The students are enrolled in a Project Lead the Way class, a pre-college engineering program that provides free curriculum to middle and high schools throughout the country in an effort to enhance learning and encourage students to pursue engineering.

Not only, then, is this alternative learning environment, but also a college-preparation course, and an economically incentive program. Students who are in this program are future engineers, and are able to use their skills and passions for engineering in middle schools and high schools, where before it would be difficult to find such a program. 

I’m thinking of my high school, and we had an engineering class, a woodshop-type class, and multiple physics courses, and yet we never had something like that–much less something free!

These classes in this new program do not deter away from the regular academic schedule, but are offered as elective courses for students as an option, not a requirement. This program is rapidly gaining popularity:

Cooley Principal Karen Calkins said the classes, taken as electives, are in high demand. Parents request them; students are on waiting lists. Classes focus on the science of technology, flight and space, automation and robotics, the magic of electrons and design and modeling.

One of the coolest things I learned from this article was that programs like this one were not exclusive to “honors” students, or any type of student:

The program also is accessible to all students and learning styles. Teachers find that special education students excel with the hands-on approach.

The fact that such a special program would be offered to anyone interested is so cool. I am extremely interested in having special interest programs, and differentiated programs in schools. My only problem with these programs is that they sometimes either force students into a exclusive curriculum on that subject, or that they force students out, creating requirements so that various learning styles and abilities are unable to take them. Obviously, there are exceptions to both sides, this program being completely open and elective. Any student could get into this program, and the students, once in the program, do not have to become engineers, even though this program is geared towards that career field.

This program is gaining success, and I think many more programs will be developed that also fit these unique innovations:

Sixty-five schools in California now use the curriculum. That will rise to 107 next year, said Duane Crum, California’s Project Lead the Way leader.

And it’s proving effective. Fifty-six percent of students who have gone through the program elect engineering in college, more than five times the national average of 10 percent. And they are 30 percent more likely to complete an engineering major than the national average, program officials said.

Full Article Here

Lofing, Niesha. “Program Encourages Teens to Pursue Engineering Career.” The Sacramento Bee. April 10 2007.